Working “somewhere nice”

Since starting Fit In No Time my life has been pretty random at times (Note: I love it and I’m definitely not complaining) – I’ve been to China for 5 days, run coaching courses all over the UK including in RAF Brize Norton, camped in Margam Park for a week and been offered all sorts of other opportunities. The most recent offer came in the form of an e-mail from the UCI saying something along the lines of “I need someone to run a course from 24th to 31st October. It’s somewhere nice!” I replied saying that I was available and would be happy to go and a few days later was told that somewhere nice was Barbados and that I was going to deliver a course to a group of coaches from the Barbados Cycling Union (BCU). And that’s how I ended up in the Carribean for the first time….

I arrived in the country and the first thing that hit me was the heat! Obviously I was expecting it to be hot but I wasn’t quite prepared for the blast of hot air as I reached the plane doors-it felt like someone had left the oven door open! I had left the UK 8hrs earlier wearing only a t-shirt and light trousers and feeling comfortable with the temperature at 10 degrees or so-now it was mid-afternoon and the temperature was nearly 30 degrees!

I was met at the airport by one of the BCU coaches (Wayne) who took me to my hotel in a place called St. Lawrence Gap-it was called Infinity on the Beach and the name didn’t lie, it was literally on the beach! It also had air conditioning in my room which was on for pretty much my entire stay.

The beach outside my hotel-not a bad place for a morning run or swim. Also managed to fit in a couple of surf sessions with the turtles here!

Volunteers

Talking to Wayne and Keith, the BCU president, later on it was clear that the BCU is very much a voluntary organisation-there are no employees and only 2 coaches who are employed on the island, one through the National Sports Council and one “on-loan” from Cuba. Despite that the organisation run races, organise youth development schemes and run trips for Barbados National teams to major events all around the world as well as administering the sport in general-a pretty impressive effort from a small group of volunteers!

The National Stadium

The day after I arrived I was taken to see the venue for the course at the National Stadium. It is the only track in the country, 500metres, outdoors (of course), made from concrete and it has some history-as Keith told me, Sir Chris Hoy once had a bad crash in Turn 3 and had to be taken to hospital. After a check-up he was back racing later the same day leaving Keith and the local riders very impressed!

The Barbados National Stadium-home to the course and to the only velodrome on the island.

The Barbados National Stadium-home to the course and to the only velodrome on the island.

Living up to Stereotypes

I think I’m pretty laid back in general but in comparison to the Bajans I felt highly strung! As a result, Keith couldn’t say for sure who was (or even how many were) going to arrive on the first night, we just had to wait and see. As it happened, 14 potential coaches arrived, mostly on time (at least on “Bajan time” which I found out was anywhere within 15mins or so of the actual time) and all with little or no formal coaching experience……….but importantly they were all enthusiastic, keen to learn and ready to volunteer and make a difference to their sport.

The course

Introduction-thinking differently solves the puzzle!

Introduction-thinking differently solves the puzzle!

Because they are all volunteers everyone worked during the day and then came straight to the course in the evenings, finishing at around 9pm so that we could get 3.5hrs in each night-again, that’s a pretty impressive commitment for an 8 day course! The course times meant that the only chance we had to meet in the daylight was on the weekend so for the rest of the course we had to be a bit creative with some of the coaching practicals. We practised static demos in a small undercover area when it was raining one day, used a small corridor without bikes when it was too dark and used a portion of the track that was lit when it was available-see photos below. Ironically the off the bike practical elements were a big hit-in particular the walking Madison (no running allowed) and echelon training were probably the most popular activities of the week! It just goes to show that with a little bit of imagination coaches (and Coach Educators) can engage riders in almost any situation.

Learning about Echelons and practising coaching. At the mid-way point of the foot race in crosswinds!

Learning about Echelons and practising coaching. At the mid-way point of the foot race in crosswinds!

Success

At the end of the week, I was really pleased to be able to tell all of the coaches that they had passed a short written exam and therefore the course. The day after the course ended was the first day of a new Youth Development Scheme where nearly 30 young riders came to the Stadium to show an interest in cycling-a really positive sign in an island with a population of less than 300,000. So, with an enthusiastic, committed bunch of coaches, 14 newly qualified coaches and 30 or so new keen young riders things are looking positive for Barbados Cycling. Hopefully it won’t be long before the BCU can attract the next Sir Chris Hoy to the Island to inspire those young riders to continue in the sport and achieve their potential

Two of the rising stars of Barbados cycling at one of Coach Santos' regular training sessions.

Two of the rising stars of Barbados cycling at one of Coach Santos’ regular training sessions.

Thanks

Firstly I must say a big thank you to Keith, Wayne, Livi and all of the other volunteers from BCU as well as to Dave Farmer from the Barbados Olympic Association for all of their help. The BCU volunteers couldn’t have been more friendly or helpful throughout my stay, showing me around the island and answering all of my questions about it’s history and culture.

I’d also like to say thanks to the participants on the course for giving up their time and taking part so enthusiastically, especially to Randy (also from Trail Seekers Barbados) who offered to lend me a bike and guide me around the island at the end of the week-a very different experience to MTB in the UK but also a very enjoyable one as we rode through some stunning scenery (including literally on the beach at one point) in very warm, sunny conditions.

Lastly, thanks to Martin for the “graduation” photo: Google A-Focused-Man-Photo-Video-Print to see more of his work or click on the image below!

Overall

All in all, I had a great first trip to the Caribbean, met some really nice people and hopefully made a difference to cycling in Barbados. The Island has some stunning scenery, a rich history and a whole load of friendly people. I look forward to going back to the island sometime and hopefully seeing the effect that the new coaches’ hard work has had on the young riders and on cycling on the island.

"Graduation!" Thanks to Martin from A Focused Man for the photo. Click the image to see more of his work

“Graduation!” Thanks to Martin from A Focused Man for the photo. Click the image to see more of his work

The Beach at Bathsheba

The Beach at Bathsheba

A lot of information coming from the group.

A lot of information coming from the group.

It's not always sunny in Barbados and when it rains, things flood!

It’s not always sunny in Barbados and when it rains, things flood!

Practising Risk Assessment.

Practising Risk Assessment.

Static Demonstrations can be useful.....and fun!

Static Demonstrations can be useful…..and fun!

More coaching practice-on rider, one coach, one holder and one observing.

More coaching practice-on rider, one coach, one holder and one observing.

Some of the local wildlife.

Some of the local wildlife.